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Thousands of acres of Connecticut farmland damaged by floods

Road damage in Bristol, Conn. from flooding over the weekend of July 15, 2023.
Office of Governor Ned Lamont
Road damage in Bristol, Conn. from flooding over the weekend of July 15, 2023.

Thousands of acres of Connecticut farmland have been damaged by recent floods, including this weekend’s overflowing of the Connecticut River.

The state wants to submit a disaster declaration request, which could unlock emergency loan programs from the federal government.

The state is asking all farmers to report their losses to their USDA Farm Service Agency so they can be added to the case.

While farmers wait for that money to potentially become available, Governor Ned Lamont says the state is offering smaller, low-interest loans.

“I know that's a short term solution,” Lamont said. “It's not everything you want — it's low-interest loans, it's not an outright grant. But it's a way that we can provide a little bit of relief right now, a lifeboat when you need a lifeboat. And then longer term, we're making the changes to do what we can to make sure this doesn't happen at the same severity and frequency it has over the last 10 years.”

Connecticut farmers say low-interest loans won’t be enough to pay the bills.

Katie Ahearn, a farmer at Fair Weather Acres in Rocky Hill, says the farm is going to lose around 300 acres of crops and more than half of their labor force — and they need help.

“We are asking for financial help from the state and government in forms other than low-interest loans," Ahearn said. "This assistance will help us all repay our growing cost and make it possible for us to continue farming next year. It will help keep our labor here in Connecticut and not go down south.”

Farmers will not be able to sell crops that were touched by river water.

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s federal delegation is fighting to amend the congressional agriculture bill. They want the state to get its fair share of federal support ⁠— they say most of the funding is given to big farms, when smaller farms need support too.

“Crop insurance utterly fails to provide adequate compensation as it is now structured,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said. “We have the opportunity in this farm bill to do better, but even before then, we can reform this program so as to provide more aid for smaller farms that grow more crops. In the Northeast, we know many of the produce farms will grow strawberries, peaches, apples, corn, multiple crops, not like the big megafarms out in the Midwest that just grow corn or they just grow wheat. The crop insurance program was designed for them, not for us — we need to reform it.”

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.